Joseph L. Fisher Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships

The 2017-2018 application period is now closed. Updated information for the 2018-2019 fellowship year will be posted in fall 2017.

In honor of former RFF President Joseph L. Fisher, RFF awards academic fellowships in support of doctoral dissertation research on issues related to the environment, natural resources, or energy. Awardees will be invited to give a presentation of their research at RFF, for which RFF will pay reasonable travel expenses.

RFF’s primary research disciplines are economics and other social sciences. Proposals originating in these fields will have the greatest likelihood of success. Proposals from the physical or biological sciences must have an immediate and obvious link to environmental policy matters.

Read about the current and previous Joseph L. Fisher Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship awardees.


This fellowship supports graduate students in the final year of their dissertation research. Fellowship applicants for 2017–2018 must expect to complete all requirements for their doctorate by the end of summer 2018. Applicants must also have completed the preliminary examinations for their doctorate prior to the application deadline. This requirement will be strictly enforced.

The program is open to both US and non-US citizens, provided that the latter have proper work and residency documentation.


For the 2017–2018 academic year, the fellowship carries a stipend of $18,000, which is intended to be a student's principal source of support. The fellowship stipend will thus be reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of any financial assistance (other than tuition support) from other sources. However, the fellowship will still pay a minimum stipend of $2,000 to awardees whose stipends would otherwise be reduced below that amount. All other financial assistance must be disclosed to RFF and it is expected that fellowship recipients will not engage in full-time employment during the period of fellowship tenure. Under the Tax Reform Act of 1986, most, if not all, of this stipend will likely be taxable income.

Application Materials

Graduate students interested in applying should submit the following: (1) a completed application form available here; (2) a cover letter; (3) curriculum vitae; (4) a graduate transcript; (5) a one-page abstract of the dissertation; (6) a technical summary of the dissertation not to exceed 2,500 words in length (not including the bibliography); (7) a letter from the department chair or other university official certifying the student’s doctoral candidacy; and (8) two letters of recommendation from faculty members on the student’s dissertation committee. The technical summary should describe clearly the aim of the dissertation, its significance in relation to the existing literature, and the research methods and data to be used. RFF cannot provide evaluations or other feedback on proposals.